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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Catholic Youth Celebrate Faith and Universality of the Church...

On my way to drop off my children at my parents’ house one recent morning, I started telling them about World Youth Day, which started Tuesday and will last until Sunday in Madrid, Spain.

I told them that over one million Catholics from all over the globe are expected to attend, including Pope Benedict XVI.

Then, I turned to my older daughter and told her I would love to attend World Youth Day some day. Without skipping a beat, and from, what seemed to be, the depths of her heart, she answered, “But Dad, it’s for youth!”

There’s nothing like a good dose of reality first thing in the morning.

One of the four marks of the Catholic Church is its universality.

In fact, the word Catholic, first recorded in the writings of Ignatius of Antioch, who lived during apostolic times and was a follower of Ss. Peter, Paul and John (and was ordained by St. Peter), means universal.

Thus, from the beginning, the Catholic Church has been a universal church, following the mandate of Jesus Christ, whose last instruction to His disciples was to “make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

This is never more evident then at World Youth Day, which this year brings together Catholics from 193 countries to share in faith, love, and serve as a visible light upon the hill and reason for hope. It is unity in diversity.

Aside from the faithful, who despite my daughter’s observation, because of its name, is open to Catholics (and non-Catholic Christians) of all ages, over 800 bishops, archbishops and cardinals and eight thousand priests will attend the six-day event.

Participants will celebrate the faith by praying together, worshiping together, breaking bread together, receiving the sacraments, including daily Mass and Confession, getting catechetical instructions from bishops, and having fun, including concerts, enjoying the rich Catholic history of Madrid, but, most importantly, encountering the Risen Christ, through the love of neighbor, the Word of God and the Eucharist.

Pope Benedict will arrive Thursday and is expected to attend nine events, including a welcoming celebration Thursday night at the Plaza de Cibeles, leading an Adoration Vigil, where participants will be invited to spend the night in tents, praying in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and the Sunday open-air closing Mass at Cuatro Vientos. Somewhere in between, the Holy Father is also expected to hear Confession in one of the 200 confessionals that were installed at the Jardines del Buen Retiro.

Like many nations in Europe, Spain is a country in desperate need of a faith revival, where the traditionally loyal Catholic nation’s government has become more and more secularized and liberalized, to the point, where there is an antagonistical relationship with the Church. Still, over 130 thousand Spanish youth are expected to attend.

World Youth Day gives the Church an opportunity to reenergize young faithful. Let’s face it, one of the greatest failures of Church authorities over the last fifty years has been the inability to keep young Catholics feeling passionate about their faith and making the moral teachings relevant to the times we live in.

I’m not suggesting the moral teachings be adjusted to the modern world. I understand that man needs to adjust to God, not God to man. God is Truth. And, Truth never changes. It was the same during the time of Christ. It is the same today and it will be the same tomorrow. Therefore, the Church, which was handed the deposit of faith by Christ, can never change her teachings according to societal pressures.

When I refer to keeping the teachings of the Church relevant, what I mean is to keep them in the forefront of culture; not shy away from controversy or fear opposing viewpoints. As more learned men then me have stated through the ages, the Church must always be ready to give a reason for our hope, as St. Peter wrote, but with gentleness and love. She must be vocal in explaining the faith with fervor, conviction and excitement, so as to motivate and inspire and allow the Truth to set us free!

As a father, I understand that this passion for the faith must start at home. And, it begins with me. The most important responsibility I have as a father is not buying my children the latest Play Station computer game, MP3 player, smart phone or Apple product. It’s not even sending them to the most reputable school.  I adhere to a line I heard Dr. Ray Guarendi, who is a father of eleven adopted children, a clinical psychologist and author, once say, “I am more interested in my children getting into Heaven than getting into Harvard.” The most important responsibility I have, as a father, is passing my faith to my children.

This is the concept behind World Youth Day, which was started by Bl. Pope John Paul II in 1985 and has been held every two or three years in different cities around the world ever since.

Aside from the Pope’s love for the youth of the world, he wanted to gather them, so that, together, they could feel God’s presence and love, realize they are members of the organic Living Body of Christ, past, present and future, and go out and transform the world.

Therefore, despite my daughter’s candid observation, I hope someday I can attend World Youth Day and partake in the Catholicity of the Universal Church…

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